Important updates regarding the fall semester

July 23, 2020 - by William Graves

Dear Iowa State University graduate students,

As I wrote in my last email to you on June 25, I have been continually impressed with Iowa State graduate students during the pandemic. My colleagues and I in the Graduate College are here to help you manage your educational pursuits during these extraordinary times. 

I also want to make sure you are aware of how the university will operate during Fall 2020, and how you can seek assistance. Please see this FAQ for updates that were included in my last message, including information on assistantship appointments, oral examinations, deadlines, and more. 

New information since my last message is summarized below. 


Town Halls

Each academic college will hold a virtual town hall specifically for graduate students before the fall semester begins. Academic colleges will contact graduate students with information on how to join the forums. I encourage you to participate if you have questions or concerns, or if you simply want to know more. If you are in an interdepartmental major, please attend a town hall with one of the colleges affiliated with your program. Here is schedule information from each college as of today:

  • Business: Wednesday, July 22, 4 p.m.
  • Veterinary Medicine: Thursday, July 23, 8 a.m.
  • Design: week of July 27
  • Human Sciences: Tuesday, July 28, 4:30 p.m.
  • Agriculture and Life Sciences: Wednesday, July 29 (time to be determined)
  • Engineering: week of August 3
  • Liberal Arts and Sciences: tentatively scheduled for Wednesday, August 5 at 10 a.m.


Federal Policy Rescinded

A new federal policy that could have made it challenging for many F-1 international students to make academic progress has been rescinded. Iowa State is enriched by its graduate students from all over the world, so I am pleased by this outcome.  Please note, however, that students holding J-1 visas are required to minimize the number of online courses for which they register. Please contact the International Students and Scholars Office for more information.


Alternate Arrangements

  • Graduate teaching, research, and administrative assistants (GAs) at high risk for serious illness due to COVID-19 as defined by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) may continue to seek alternative arrangements for performing their duties by following this guidance. GAs not at high risk but living with someone who is also may follow the guidance.
  • Graduate students at high risk, regardless of GA status, may seek assistance with concerns via this Dean of Students website.
  • Graduate students not at high risk according to the CDC who have GA-related or other academic concerns should first speak with their major professors, DOGEs, or department chairs. If needed, students may subsequently seek assistance by completing this form, or by emailing me or Associate Dean Carolyn Cutrona in the Graduate College.
  • Information on accommodations for graduate students with documented disabilities is available here


Positive COVID-19 Tests and Contact Tracing

Anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 needs to report that confidentially within 10 days of receiving the test result by using this form. Students who test positive will be counseled on strategies for continuing to make academic progress. Contact tracing will also occur for any person who tests positive. The goal of contact tracing is to identify everyone an infected person has been in contact with (students, faculty, staff, others) who was less than 6 feet away for more than 15 minutes (per CDC guidance). If classmates, faculty, or teaching assistants meet this definition, they will be contacted. Assigned seating in classrooms may be used to enhance contact tracing.


Medical Costs

Iowa State is mitigating the risk of COVID-19 in numerous ways, but the possibility of infection cannot be eliminated. The Student and Scholar Health Insurance Program (SSHIP) will provide benefits to any participant who incurs expenses for COVID-19 treatment. The student’s cost share for in-network services includes a $450 deductible, 20% coinsurance, and a $10 or $20 copay for medication. The out-of-pocket maximum is $4,100. More information is available in the Summary of Benefits and Coverage section of this website. SSHIP has been enhanced by Wellmark through August 31 as described here. COVID-19 testing is free for students.  


Overview of Academics for Fall 2020

President Wintersteen and Provost Wickert sent a letter to all graduate students on July 10 that summarizes:

  • information on class formats and scheduling,
  • coursework while quarantining or self-isolating,
  • options for students at high risk for serious illness due to COVID-19, and
  • assistantship provisions.


Easier Schedule Changes

If you are a continuing graduate student who needed to change your schedule in a prior semester, you may recall using a yellow paper form that had to be brought to the Graduate College for a signature. We’ve made this process easier. If you need to process a schedule change during Fall 2020, please describe the desired change to the graduate support professional in your department or major. That person will contact the Graduate College to make the change.


Graduation and Commencement

Although the academic calendar has shifted earlier, Graduate College deadlines related to graduation in Fall 2020 remain unchanged. Oral examinations may be held virtually, and examination results will now be reported electronically. The university is reviewing options for Fall 2020 commencement(s); more information will be shared as soon as it is available.


Office Hours

The Graduate College main office (1137 Pearson Hall) will be staffed from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. beginning August 3. In-person assistance will be available by request and appointment. Physical access in the office will be limited to promote social distancing. Face coverings will be required in the office, and signage will direct visitors to enter and exit through different doors, both of which can be opened without touching them with your hand. Office surfaces used frequently will be disinfected regularly, and hand sanitizer will be available. Although we will make it as safe as we can to be in our office, we encourage you to contact us (at 515-294-4531 or via email) before visiting so that we can assist you remotely. All the beneficial programming of the Center for Communication Excellence and Graduate Career Services will remain virtual through Fall 2020. 



Please consider your computer needs carefully. To enhance safety, most public computer labs on campus will be closed during the coming semester. If you have relied on those facilities in the past, you may wish to acquire a laptop.  Parks Library has computer equipment that may be borrowed. Questions can be sent to


As always, please feel free to reach out to the Graduate College with any additional questions or concerns.


Signature of William Graves, Dean of the Graduate College



William R. Graves

Dean of the Graduate College

Tags: covid-19 updates